While there are many who advocate for this new app and that great new program, Microsoft Office’s PowerPoint remains the lifeblood of many marketing presentations and documents. It’s our old friend who knows our needs and wants better than we know them ourselves, who’s always there for us in times of big campaigns and important reports.
For those looking to improve their presentations, these PowerPoint dos and don’ts will not disappoint - we’ve put all our research and experience into it to ensure that. If you’re just discovering PowerPoint’s endless capabilities, these tips will help you master it in no time.
We’ve also included some Pro Tips that might hold the answers to some of the questions you’ve been having. Let’s get started.
1. Know your audience
All marketing actions should start here. It’s the same for presentations, regardless of their intended purpose. Your information, design and style should be based on what your audience will understand and respond to.
Nancy Duarte, Principal of Duarte Design and author of “Slideology”, recommends asking 7 questions to know your audience and build an audience persona slide to place at the front of your presentation.
2. Create a structure
Things can quickly spiral out of control if you dive head on to designing the document, without a structure in place. Even if you’re creating a presentation to illustrate an existing piece of content, you’ll still need to tailor it to PowerPoint specifics regarding quantity of information, succession of ideas, verbal details used when presenting it etc.
If you’re halfway through the presentation and don’t remember what comes next, go back to your structure. This will help maintain a cohesive train of thought and message flow.
For instance, we usually start our presentation creation process by putting together a structure of the presentation, then we add content to fill-in the structure and, finally, we design the content.
3. Use keywords
This will help you convey a clear message and keep your audience’s attention. It’s also of great help to you when creating the flow of the presentation.
Start with the topic of your presentation, your principal keyword will derive from that and will most likely be comprised in the presentation title. The structure of your presentation will give you another set of keywords.
For example, this presentation starts with 2 main longtail keywords: search content and social content. If you browse through the presentation you'll notice that certain keywords that are essential to the topic at hand are distributed recurrently throughout the presentation, such as: content marketing, social media, digital channels and content strategy.
4. Organize your information clearly
Be brief and clear. Don’t crowd your slides. Instead, opt for no more than 2-3 sentences per slide and keep in mind your keywords. Think of them more like statements than sentences.
Treat your slides like billboards.
If you’re using lists, 6 bullets/points per slide should cover it. Make sure to leave enough space between lines of text.
Limit the number of slides. A good case practice is using 20-30 slides or one slide per minute.
Use section divider slides; this will help break up content into memorable chunks.
5. Use a legible font
Opt for a legible font and type size. Don’t use eccentric fonts that will make it impossible to make out the actual words. Stick to standard, easy-to-read fonts, preferably sans-serif (fonts such as Arial or Helvetica). This will also minimize the risk of having your fonts substituted when sending to other people.
Titles should be at least 28 to 48 points, bulleted text or body copy at least 24 points. Only use caps in headlines and section titles, not in paragraphs.
6. Ensure design consistency
Create a template based on your brand guidebook, using the company logos and colors. This will make it so much easier to create consistent presentations and maintain design unity across your work.
Create different layouts for different occasions, within the same template; this way, your presentations will be unified from a design point of view but still have original elements given by the different layouts used.
7. Be smart about colors
If your brand book already has a color palette you’re all set. If you’re doing something different, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the appropriate colors: not too bright, high contrast, consistent. A color that looks good on your monitor does not necessarily look good on the big screen you’ll be using to present.
The relationships between the colors you’re using are also important. Limit the use of color to 2 to 4 colors/shades. Use colors that will stand out and will be easy on the eyes (dark backgrounds and light text is a good case practice.) Try Paletton to experiment with different combinations and see what would work best for what you have in mind.
Get inspired by this year’s Pantone color palette to design visually attractive presentations:
8. Use visual elements to illustrate your ideas
Graphs and charts can help show relationships, comparisons, and change. Illustrate your point by verbally discussing each element. Only include 1 to 2 images per slide. You can also use shapes to illustrate complex topics.
Make sure to use these visual graphics to enhance your message and increase understanding. Too much of anything can lead to over stimulating your audience and losing their attention.
9. Save, save, save
It’s best to prevent any technical mishaps and save your work every 5-10 minutes. Even though the program has an automatic save and recover function, there have been plenty of instances when it was too late or something went wrong. CTRL+S is your mantra.
10. End with a summary slide
It’s a good case practice to go through your key points and list the final benefits in a summary slide, at the end of your presentation.
The most important sections of your presentation are the beginning and ending. The beginning is when you will grab the attention of the audience. The summary ending will make it easier for them to remember your ideas.
Here’s an example from one of our clients’ presentations:
11. Keep your presentations well-organized
Store each presentation and its associated files in its proper folder, together with all the visual elements you’ve used.
12. Use animation and sound carefully
Like graphics, animations can be used to enhance your ideas. Abuse them, and you have information overload again. You can also integrate sounds into your presentation, if that’s something that supports your ideas or is needed.
For example, this animation emphasizes that the solution offered by the client is much faster and prevents higher losses:
13. Use transitions for a more dramatic impact
Transitions between slides can help your presentation make more of an impact. However, they can also be quite distracting. A good case practice is to keep transitions to a minimum and use the same transition or a variation of the transition.
Transitions can help when you want to break up content over several slides while still keeping a sense of continuity. Think of it as creating movie scenes rather than individual slides.
With the help of more complex animations and transitions, you can replicate modern effects you typically see on websites, such as parallax scrolling. This type of transition can help the narrative of your presentation and enhance it’s storytelling.
1. Put everything on one slide
It’s not as obvious as you might think. We’ve all done it, at one point. For those situations when there is still something to say, illustrate or include, take a step back and ask yourself “If I can’t see this slide and I can’t read off of it during my presentation, will I still be able to convey its essence?” And there you have your answer.
Only put the essence down. It’s recommended that you don't use more than eight words per line or eight lines per slide. Start with creating the slides you want and then go back and edit them - remove all non-essential information, remove unnecessary words, and take out slides you can live without. Cut your presentation by as much as half to get to the core if it.
2. Overuse transitions, animations and sound
These effects are meant to be used scarcely, to increase the impact of one idea. They can become a distraction very quickly.
Keep your message front and center and spice up your presentation with enhancing elements at the end. Most presentations are just a visual aid; if you overload them, the audience will end up trying to read the slides and not paying attention to you.
3. Use hard-to-read color combinations and fonts
Stay away from red/green, brown/green, blue/black, blue/purple combinations. Instead, aim for a high contrast between background and text. Also, don’t use bright background colors that will strain your audience's eyes.
You should also try not to use different colors and fonts on every single slide. Your template will help with this.
4. Use generic graphics and (very) stock photos
If you’re going to opt for visual elements, make sure they are well-designed and suited for your audience. Don’t use generic clipart you found on Google, that’s just offensive to your audience.
The same goes for stock photos that look the same and have been used by everyone. Chances are someone has seen or used that image as well, so instead of helping, it actually hurt your point.
5. Think the slides are for you
Too many people seem to think PowerPoint is just a speech handout. Your presentation is meant to help the audience follow you and to give the clues to organize the information you are sharing, it’s not a substitute.
Pro Tips and Tricks
- Choose a story archetype to structure your presentation
- Create custom slide sizes - for example, if you want to show a quick presentation to someone on your smartphone, you can create slides the size of your actual screen
- Align objects to get a clean design - try this tool for slide proofing
- Get more control over objects' designs using "Format" menus
- Create custom shapes
- Crop images into custom shapes
- Embed your font files to make sure they don’t change
- Embed multimedia
- Compress images to reduce the size of the presentation
- Use Touch Bar shortcuts
- Use a black background for scientific presentations
- Convert vectors to editable shapes in PowerPoint
Whatever your choice of presentation creation program, remember that your ultimate goal is to convey a message. Follow the principles above and make sure everything you’re including in it supports your message and enhances it, without distracting the audience.
If you need help with creating a last-minute report or presentation, we’ve got just the team for you. Drop us an email and request a quote and we’ll make sure to help you deliver a successful presentation!